The wildest winds

My guest blogger, Imogen, is a student of Gifted Online. She has contributed a poem which exudes the confidence and resilience we want for all of the children we teach. Thank you, Imogen!

The wildest winds

The wildest winds
Twist my hair up
Like a tornado
Above my head
And let it fall
Loosely down again.

The wildest winds
Blow my dress
Out to the sides,
But nothing
Can blow me off my feet.

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Gifted Education in Early Childhood in New Zealand – A Literature Review

Joanna McGibbon St George has contributed her recent review of the literature on gifted education in early childhood to the blog tour. Thank you, Jo.

Sunnies

Introduction
Is gifted education in the New Zealand early childhood sector one aspect that is more often than not overlooked? (Walsh, Hodge, Bowes & Kemp, 2010). Is the curriculum designed to support all learners within early childhood programmes? The results of Margrain and Farquhar’s survey (2012) show that it could possibly be failing gifted children under the age of 8.

Considering the rate of brain development and growth, especially between 0 – 5, “Is viewed as crucial in the development intellect, self esteem and social functioning, it is perplexing that so little attention has been paid to the needs of young gifted children” Shore cited in (Walsh, Hodge, Bowes & Kemp, 2010, p. 44). Though educators working within the curriculum provide a wide range of activities and experiences for all children in their care to wonder over and explore, surely this includes gifted children (Margrain, & Farquhar, 2012).

Definition of Giftedness
There seems to be no clear definition for gifted young children (Margrain & Farquhar, 2102). Others disagree suggesting that there are
many definitions of giftedness, but with such variety of ideas lack of clarity gives rise to confusion (Walsh, Hodge, Bowes & Kemp, 2010). One such example is, “The term giftedness refers to spontaneous untrained abilities (potential) that place the individual in the top 10% of same-age peers in that particular domain” Gagné cited in (Walsh, Hodge, Bowes & Kemp, 2010, p. 44).

Though there may be a certain amount of confusion in regards to a clear definition, there are certain characteristics that are more prevalent with young gifted children. Speech develops from a very early age, and a good grasp of language comprehension follows, and children are able to hold fairly in depth conversations with adults. Along with this it is not unusual for these children to be reading by age four (McGee & Hughes, 2011).

Challenges and Misunderstandings
Along with these characteristics, certain challenges appear, for instance a young child’s mental abilities do not develop at the same rate as their emotional capabilities. “Young children with advanced concepts and skills may develop emotional issues, such as fears, emotional sensitivities to others, perfectionism, early awareness of their own emotional and intellectual states, self-esteem issues, and behavioural nonconformity” Porter, cited in (McGee & Hughes, 2011, p. 101). Anger and frustration may arise from the child when their intellectual needs are not met, causing the misunderstanding that they may have behavioural issues (Walsh, Hodge, Bowes & Kemp, 2010).

Tensions do arise over the push to either place gifted children into primary school early, or to keep them in an early childhood environment. If children’s emotional maturity does not match their intellectual ability, then placing them in primary will likely lead to more of a deficit in that area. Those pro say that if children are encouraged to develop at their own pace, then surely early school attendance will benefit gifted children, and reduce any signs of frustration (Margrain & Farquhar, 2012).

Educators Role
Educators can play a part in identifying gifted children through using the everyday tools at their disposal. Such as informal anecdotal observations (Margrain & Farquhar, 2012), and also through learning stories, which are “Learner centered, credit based, and illustrates learning and achievement within authentic contexts” Moore, Molloy, Morton & Davis, cited in (Margrain, 2011, p. 8).

Educators need to extend their knowledge on gifted children, and develop an awareness of their characteristics (McGee & Hughes, 2011). In recognising these characteristics, teamed with an educator who is confident working with gifted children, these children will develop and thrive within that environment (Bevan-Brown, 2012).

Educators may discover some tension around the provision of a free play, emergent curriculum, and the provision of activities for gifted children that are more formal and school like, within the early childhood classroom (Walsh, Hodge, Bowes & Kemp, 2010).

Maori Children and Gifted Education
“The continued under representation of Maori students in gifted and talented programmes indicates the need to ensure our understandings about the way children learn, and the corresponding curriculum content, reflect Maori conceptions, values and practices” (Webber, 2006, p. 2). Not all abilities that Maori people value as gifting perfectly line up with western ideas, but these gifts need to be identified and nurtured in such a way that culture is part and parcel of the gifted child’s development (Bevan-Brown, 2012). Maori children’s cultural background, is established with deep roots that delve right back into the history of their whanau, hapu and iwi. When this background is acknowledged by educators, the child then has a solid place start to understand what giftedness means to his culture, therefore allowing him to take pride in his achievements, and continue to grow and develop holistically. A classroom that provides learning opportunities that are closely entwined to a child’s whakapapa as possible, will be one where gifted Maori children will shine (Webber, 2006).

Working With Parents and Whanau
Educators need to build positive reciprocal relationships with parents, and taking into account what parents are saying regarding their gifted child (Bevan-Brown, 2012). Parents understand their child better than others and have a great well of information at their disposal, and can share examples from home (Walsh, Hodge, Bowes & Kemp, 2010).

“However, teachers and families need to collaborate to identify such children and create supportive educational environments” (McGee & Hughes, 2011, p. 100).

Parents and whanau may feel they have no support, that teachers are not hearing them, that in fact educators came across as disinterested and unbelieving. Parents of 4 ½ year olds whose children have advanced reading ages, have reported little or no support from their child’s teacher, and found it a fight to be heard (Margrain, 2011).

Conclusion
Literature has shown differences of opinions in regards to the definition of giftedness, but concurs that gifted abilities do arise in young children. Also, educators have differing viewpoints in regards to gifted education within early childhood education. Some are proactive in working with parents, and others pull back in disbelief (Margrain, 2011).

New Zealand has much to celebrate regarding gifted education, but the caution comes “We cannot rest on our laurels and must continually strive to improve the situation for gifted and talented learners in NZ, their parents, family and whanau” (Bevan-Brown, 2012, p. 2).

Reference List
Bevan-Brown, J.(2012). Digging deeper, flying higher. Apex: The New Zealand Journal of Gifted Education 17(1). Retrieved September 27th, 2014, from www.giftedchildren.org.nz/apex

Margrain, V. (2011). Assessment for learning with young gifted children. Apex: The New Zealand Journal of Gifted Education 17(1). Retrieved September 27th, 2014, from www.giftedchildren.org.nz/apex

Margrain, V., & Farquhar, S. (2012). The education of gifted children in the early years: A first survey of views, teaching practices, resourcing and administration issues. Apex: The New Zealand Journal of Gifted Education 17(1). Retrieved September 27th, 2014, from www.giftedchildren.org.nz/apex

McGee, C. D., & Hughes, C. E. (2011). Identifying and supporting young gifted learners. Young Children, 66(4), pp, 100 – 105.

Webber, M. (2006). Identity and Whakapapa: A curriculum for the gifted Maori child. Retrieved October 14th, 2014, from http://www.confer.co.nz/gnt/Thursday/webber.pdf

Walsh, L. R., Hodge, K. A., Bowes, J. M., & Kemp, C. R. (2010). Same age different page: Overcoming the barriers to catering for young gifted children in prior-to-school settings. International Journal of Early Childhood, 4(1), pp, 43-58.

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Belonging and Gifted Children

This post is by guest blogger Rebecca Howell for the UK, whose past posts for the #NZGAW bog tour have been among our most widely read. Thank you for supporting our blog tour again, Rebecca.

Belong2
The desire for humans to belong is said to be such a fundamental human motivation that there are severe emotional consequences of not belonging (Baumeister and Leary 1995). The need to belong is a basic human need, something we need for survival as much as food, warmth and shelter. If our basic needs are threatened we react with the biological systems of fight, flight and playing dead. This applies to belonging and our need to protect it as much as our other basic needs, and our physiological responses are accompanied by the emotional responses of anger (fight), anxiety (flight) and depression (playing dead).

‘Belonging’ means that we feel that we play an active part in the communities we encounter; our families, our schools and our workplaces. Playing an active part in our communities means feeling that we are of value to community and have self-worth.

When we sense a threat to our belonging or self-worth, we respond biologically. Whether we respond with anger, anxiety or depression depends on many things but we experience at least one of those feelings. These feelings are there to force us into action, so we feel compelled to get rid of the feelings through attacking (if angry), running away or withdrawing (if experiencing anxiety) or shutting down emotions (if playing dead).

However, we also know that there are long-term consequences to short-term behaviours, both generally and in protecting our belonging and self-worth, so we can choose to rationalise these feelings. When children have these strong feelings they are less able to rationalise them or see the long-term consequences of their actions.

Gifted children often suffer from a lack of understanding for them and their situation. A gifted child who is misunderstood by parents, teachers or peers is likely to feel as if they don’t belong and their self-worth will be challenged. This will be a threat to their basic need and they will experience anger, anxiety or depression. These feelings may, if they cannot yet rationalise them, result in inappropriate behaviour attempting to protect this need.

When teachers don’t get the measure of gifted children, when the tendency towards rules and justice is cast aside, when actions are misunderstood, gifted children’s sense of belonging and self-worth are threatened.

When gifted children don’t have access to the appropriate level of challenge, when they are routinely made to sit through basic work they already know, when the questions they ask to further their understanding are brushed aside, gifted children’s sense of belonging and self-worth is threatened.

When parents misunderstand gifted children’s sensory signals, when they aren’t consistent or fair in their discipline, when they hold their children back from accessing the learning they need, gifted children’s sense of belonging and self-worth is threatened.

When gifted children’s peers don’t accommodate their differences, when they leave them out of games or taunt and tease them, gifted children’s sense of belonging and self-worth is threatened.

These examples show that damage to many gifted children’s sense of belonging and self-worth happens frequently. Parents, teachers and other professionals need to make sure that environments are best-placed to avoid threats to their sense of belonging and self-worth by:

  • Ensuring gifted children’s individual needs are recognised and communicated
  • Recognising and supporting the individual characteristics of gifted children
  • Making sure discipline is fair, consistent and with precedent (part of the school/home rules)
  • Understanding that strong emotions sometimes lead to strong actions
  • Providing the appropriate level of challenge so gifted children can build learning skills and resilience
  • Ensuring the environments gifted children are in are accepting of differences
  • Helping gifted children to build friendships and tackling any bullying behaviour.

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The Restraints of Being Gifted

Our guest blogger this evening is a student called Lily, who has also written for Gifted Awareness Week on previous occasions. Thanks, Lily!

CageOfBoredomOften gifted children have little opportunity to learn and expand knowledge. Teachers assume that we’re okay, because we aren’t struggling. They tend to focus on the children who are below level and having difficulties in learning and forget that we, in actual fact, are struggling, but in a different way to the people who are struggling to keep up. We are struggling to find new things to learn and to keep our minds active.

We try to learn through reading but often the higher-level material is inappropriate and our parents ban us from reading it. We try to challenge ourselves but often fail to find a good way to do so.

I am lucky because I have found GO Storymakers, a writing program for creative young students. Weekly, we chat on Skype to each other and our wonderful teacher Mary helps us find ways to challenge ourselves; to challenge our ideas, our perspective, and our writing. Not only does this give us a chance to learn from each other, but we can socialise with like-minded students!

It makes me quite disheartened to know that not all kids like me have such a wonderful opportunity. Some of them are left at school wasting their time on pointless tasks that require little effort. These activities generally don’t add to their knowledge or quench their thirst to learn. Some of their parents don’t even realise that they are so bright; they are often mistaken for below-level students because they are bored at school and slack off.

Sometimes I myself feel like I am trapped in a cage of boredom, but I have found some ways out of it. Gifted children usually have interesting passions and skills that they could be showing other students at their school. I am fortunate enough to have a great teacher who is very flexible and only wants the best for her students. After asking her if I could make a class movie, she agreed and gave me some guidelines on how to start. The rest was up to me!

This project gave me something to look forward to and it was a way to encourage me to go to school. Of course before the project started I was still quite happy to go to school in the chance that I might learn something and I could still talk to my friends at recess and lunch. Not only did this project improve my school life, but also made others’ better. They would come up to me every day and ask, “Can we do the movie today?” If the answer was yes, their face would light up and they would be excited, if not they would be a little annoyed but I would always reassure them, “Maybe tomorrow!”

This year is my last in primary school, and I think going into high school might present me with different challenges to face. I am glad that I have adapted to this lifestyle and found ways to make it more enjoyable. I hope all other students like me will be able to also do this. Thank you for reading!

Here are some of my other pieces about being gifted from previous years: https://creatingcurriculum.wordpress.com/2013/06/20/the-gifted-deserve-more/
https://creatingcurriculum.wordpress.com/2014/06/14/the-ups-and-downs-of-being-a-gifted-child/

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Image Credit: The cage of boredom image uses has had the words added by Lily, and was created by Alisha Vargas. It has a Creative Commons attribution license.

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Don’t Freak Out!

DontFreakOut

Tonight we have some more great slogans from MindPlus Rotorua. Thanks kids!

About gifted kids:

Normal kids, extraordinary minds, extended needs.

Not mad scientists, the intelligent types.

Creative, critical, caring, we are thinkers!

Creative thinking is what we do.

What gifted kids want, value and need:

We value things that make us, us.

Intellectual students always value extended learning.

We value blossoming talents and gifts.

Advice for teachers:

Talk to gifted kids about learning.

Don’t freak out! Teach them things ☺

Let them indulge in complex learning.

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Image Credit: The “Don’t freak out!” image uses the words of one of the students, and was created by Mary St George.

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Six Word Slogans

EXPANDINGSome young gifted children from MindPlus are our guest bloggers tonight, wielding words well for their age. Thanks, kids!

Advice for Teachers

Gifted kids need more advanced tasks.

Let gifted kids’ minds roam freely.

 

What gifted kids value, want or need

We need hard work for thinking.

We value respect, creativity, and collaboration.

We need creative, critical caring thinking.

MindPlus is cool for gifted kids.

 

About Gifted Kids

Caring, creative, critical kids learn here!

Gifted kids create, evaluate and analyse.

Gifted kids have expanding scholarly minds.

We think out of the box.

Gifted learners never ever give up!

 

#NZGAW Blog Tour

Image Credit: The expanding scholarly minds image uses the words of one of the students, and was created by Mary St George.

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To the true heroes and heroines of Gifted Awareness Week

Guest blogger Rosemary Cathcart is well known to the gifted education community in New Zealand. Rosemary was the founder of the One Day School, and is the director of REACH Education.

I’d like to dedicate my post for Gifted Awareness Week to parents – to the countless Mums and Dads who struggle so hard on behalf of their little ones, who so often encounter disbelief and put-downs, and who are so rarely the focus of our attention and praise.

FromRosemaryCIt’s continuously fascinating but not an easy job, being the parent of a little mind and imagination running on supercharge. There’s the endless search for knowledge (“Mummy, where does time come from?” “Um – I’ll tell you tomorrow”), the unexpected forays into scientific investigation (“But you said Santa’s reindeers stayed on the roof so I just climbed up to look for their hoof-prints”), and that biological mystery, the complete mismatch between parent and child sleeping requirements. And that’s before they even start school, let alone hit adolescence….

But it’s when parents encounter the rest of the world that life can become very hard. Other parents, neighbours, sometimes even one’s own relatives, can find your parenting experience so far outside their own that they reject it as exaggerating, boastful, wishful thinking, believing yourself or your child to be “superior” to others, and so on. Such attitudes from others are deeply undermining to parent confidence. Add to that the hurt a parent feels for their child when that happy little person at home is the one always left standing alone on the fringe of the group. Not all parents of gifted children experience this, but for those who do, it’s daunting, to say the very least.

And then along comes school. Surely, parents think, teachers will understand. They’ll welcome a child who can already read, has got maths concepts, loves to learn. There is much more likelihood today than there was even twenty years ago that that’s exactly what will happen. But we are a long way from completely winning that battle yet – that’s why we still need Gifted Awareness Week!

But here’s the point. Parents never give up.  Despite disparaging put-downs from other parents, despite the doubts raised about one’s own parenting skills, despite the hurt felt on behalf of one’s child, despite the indifference, sometimes even hostility, of some teachers, despite the lack of teacher training in this field, despite learning programmes and assessment systems which make no real provision for their children, parents never give up. Without parents, we would not have the New Zealand Association for Gifted Children and all that that body has done on behalf of this country’s gifted children. It was a parent who first brought a Minister of the Crown to One Day School, and we got the first Ministry Advisory Group as a result. It was highly articulate parents who packed an election meeting at the George Parkyn Centre, and we got a Ministerial Working Party with many positive outcomes. Individually, sometimes very alone, and collectively, parents make a difference.

So in this Gifted Awareness Week for 2015, let us celebrate the work of those unsung heroes and heroines, the parents, who continue so courageously to support their own child and then the children of others as we strive for caring, understanding and equitable provision for our gifted children.

#NZGAW Blog TourImage Credit: Cathcart Family.

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Guest Blogger, Hon. Chris Hipkins

I am excited to have another political blog in the 2015 #NZGAW Blog Tour so soon. This one comes from Chris Hipkins, who is Member of Parliament for Rimutaka and holder of the Education Portfolio for Labour. Thank you, Chris.Chris_Hipkins_2

In the 1930s, Labour’s first Minister of Education, and subsequent Prime Minister, the Rt Hon Peter Fraser set out a vision for education that is as relevant today as it was then:

“The government’s objective, broadly expressed, is that all persons, whatever their level of ability, whether they live in town or country, have a right as citizens to a free education of the kind for which they are best fitted and to the fullest extent of their powers.”

Fraser realised that we’re all unique, we have different talents and abilities, and we are all entitled to a quality public education that caters for that.

Too many of the contemporary debates about education presume that we’re all the same, that every child will learn the same things at the same times, and that the role of the education system is to turn out ‘standardised’ job-ready workers.

We need to take a far wider and more encompassing view of the role our education system can play than that. Education transforms lives. A great education can be the difference between a life of disadvantage and a life of happiness and prosperity.

By focussing our entire education system on ensuring that every child jumps over an arbitrary set of standards at a particular age the current government are selling our kids short.

Any child who isn’t achieving to their full potential is under achieving, and that means that gifted kids who are well ahead of the class could still be “under-achievers” if they aren’t being challenged and extended.

The Labour Party recognises the great diversity that exists within our education system. We want every child to be supported to achieve their individual and unique potential. We don’t need to spend more time constantly assessing and measuring, we know what needs to be done, let’s get on and do it.

Labour will re-establish the Gifted and Talented Advisory Board to advise on best practice and advocate on behalf of gifted kids. They will be given a ring-fenced budget for research and will be supported by a dedicated unit within the Ministry of Education.

We will also ring-fence funding for specific professional development programmes for teachers that are aimed at better supporting the needs of gifted learners, and we will restore funding for specific programmes like MindPlus.

Labour has a proven track record when it comes to supporting programmes for gifted and talented students, and we intend to pick up where we left off.

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Guest Blogger, Hon. Tracey Martin

Our first political blog in the 2015 #NZGAW Blog Tour comes from Tracey Martin, whose many hats include Member of Parliament and holder of the Education Portfolio for New Zealand First. Thank you, Tracey.

TraceyMartinMPGifted and Talented is part of common education speak these days. But what does it actually mean? For me, for New Zealand First, what does Gifted and Talented inside of education mean?

We believe that every child is talented. A talent is something that one does well and often we do it well without even thinking about it. Take me for example – one of the most common statements to my parents during my school years was – “She certainly has the gift of the gab!” So talking has always been my talent. For a good number of those school years it may not have been recognised as a positive talent but it is in many ways this talent that got me to where I am today – a Member of Parliament for New Zealand First. That and a natural resilience.

So if every child is talented is the current education system geared up to recognise and support that talent?

If we agree that every child is talented, at something, then at the end of their formative years they should walk away knowing that they have a talent – talking, running, art, reading, math – it doesn’t really matter what as long as they feel pride in knowing it exists. A talent in one area can compensate for a struggle in another.

But then you have some children, some students, NZAGC reports 5 in 100, who are gifted. Sometimes it just doesn’t feel much like a gift going on some of the conversations I have had with gifted students and their parents. Much of this negativity is created by an inability of schools to appropriately identify and then deliver for these students.

For some time New Zealand First has been concerned that the Ministry of Education does not require nor collect data around the numbers of students who schools have identified as being in the top academic band or who have been identified as Gifted. Combine this with the narrowing of the curriculum to a focus on numeracy and literacy and the removal of the “well above” target in National Standards leads us to conclude only one thing. We have to conclude that this government doesn’t understand that it has a responsibility to commit to raising the achievement of students at both ends of the learning continuum, i.e., special needs and gifted and talented.

Often, because these students are literate and numerate with committed parents, the universal attitude can be dismissive with a “they will be fine” response when concerns are raised. But as research has shown us often these students are not fine. They are lonely. They are frustrated. They give up on formal education and act out to gain attention. What a loss to us as a nation that these children are not being assisted to reach their full potential.

New Zealand First believes early identification is key to assisting these children and their families become the best they can be. That is why we want to work with educators and families to establish a pilot programme, in partnership with the early childhood education sector, for the collection and analysis of school entry baseline evidence to target staffing and resourcing to meet both support and extension on a needs basis.

But just to identify is not enough. How will we continue to deliver and engage these students, both the gifted and the talented, in their academic lives?

We believe that the only way to truly deliver for these students is to establish tagged funding for student extension and enrichment. And this would be alongside the establishment of nationwide teacher professional development and funding support for high ability and gifted students.

This tagged funding could be used to release specific teachers to create personalised programmes for specific students. It could be used to fund onsite academies such as Science Academies, Performing Acts Academies, Maths, English, Sporting – where each area of gift or talent can be nourished and grown.

But more than that we would like to look at establishing Primary and Secondary Scholarships to cover costs such as MindPlus. If the Ministry of Education can dual fund secondary students to attend both high school and trade academies why is this not possible much earlier in the educational journey and why is it not available to gifted students?

The theme for Gifted Awareness Week this year is “changing the way you see us”. I hope that we don’t – my wish for each gifted and talented child is that “we see you” as you are. That we see you and challenge you and nurture you in the specific ways you need to be your best. I have hope that in the not too distant future, with the right policy settings, that this is not only possible it will become the norm.

#NZGAW Blog TourImage Credit: New Zealand First.

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Creativity and Recreativity

Creativity is a buzzword, both in business and in education. This kind of alignment of school and workplace values doesn’t happen as often as a novice might expect, so it is definitely a situation which educators should make the most of. But before we increase the focus on creativity in the classroom, we need to know what it means. In a recent #gtchat on Twitter, we discussed creative thinking, and I defined it as follows:

Creative thinking means generation, synthesis or refinement of ideas in ways which are unusual or interesting.

This was generally well received, and the generation of new and refined ideas and solutions is a key aspect of progress in any field. Students should all have the opportunity to learn about this kind of creative thinking, and to practise it often and well. Gifted students can go further, developing an understanding of what creative practice means within their domains of interest, as well as exploring which ways of approaching their work enhance their own creative productivity the most.

This kind of creativity, however, is definitely work. Often, it is the aspect of our work we love the most, but it is still work. The most perfectionistic and driven of our gifted children routinely work until they are very tired. In the interests of promoting self-care and work-life balance, I believe it is important to make time for “recreativity” in the classroom, too.

Creativity as recreation, because the work of rebuilding ourselves and our energy matters, too!

Creativity as recreation, because the work of rebuilding ourselves and our energy matters, too!

By recreativity, I mean hands on and joyful creation of “stuff”, whether original or not, in a way which may involve some learning, but is primarily lots of fun. Recreation. This kind of creativity relaxes children and recharges their batteries, ready for the next lot of serious learning.  Gifted children have a reputation for intensity, and while intensities often empower, they can also overwhelm. We could worry about this, of course, and pathologise it, but short breaks in the goal-driven intensity of our classrooms are often sufficient to keep the children’s personal intensities manifesting in positive ways.

So please provide all the opportunities for creativity you can in your classroom, but balance it with a little recreativity as well. What’s more, if you are reading this as a gifted adult and sense the need for a little recreativity of your own, make sure to check out Brilliant Chaos, a Facebook group where creativity and recreativity are shared

#NZGAW Blog TourImage Credit: The polyhedron construction image is by Flickr member Derek Bruff, and has attribution and noncommercial licenses.

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